How awesome does it feel when you find that great deal on a new pair of shoes, maybe a car, or even a new house? We all love that rush of saving a buck and knowing you got a better deal than the other guy. I’ll even go so far as to say you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least look around a little bit to know you are getting a good price. Let me ask you this, is price the ONLY factor you consider? I bet not.
Now before I go off on my rant that will certainly be longer than all of my other blogs, I first have to be very clear about something. I LOVE animal shelters, low cost clinics, and the like. They are an exceptional bunch of folks that do an extremely emotional and physically difficult job that provides a very valuable service to our communities. Not everyone can afford top notch veterinary care, so there needs to be this fantastic group that helps regular folks take care of basic veterinary needs at a reduced cost. So please do not take any word of this blog as a dig on this group of our esteemed colleagues, as I will stand up and defend them with every breath I have within me. They are all amazing people that do a job that I simply could not.
Here’s something to ponder. Shelter is a basic need and its definition is pretty straightforward. It is something that provides protection from the elements or danger. By this definition, all we humans or even pets really need is 4 walls and a roof, that’s it. It satisfies the definition and give us what we NEED. Is this what you looked for when you went looking for your current home? No, not even close. You went for the extra bedrooms, curb appeal, extra bathrooms, nice appliances, maybe a nice yard, and even perhaps a garage. NONE of these things are NEEDS, they are WANTS that provide the creature comforts we crave. You shopped around and found the best mix of your wants vs. the price you were able to pay for them. Kudos for this by the way, you work hard for your money and should be able to have the nice things that you want.
Now that I’ve sucked you in, I’m going to turn it around on you. Is your desire for your pets just to satisfy their needs? Food, water, and shelter are all they require, right? That’s what I thought. We all know you shopped around for the best pet food, have a nice cushy bed for your furry baby, and maybe even splurged for the nice collar, leash, and personalized tag that they sport with pride. You want them to be happy and comfortable in your care, and we applaud this effort. So why in the world are you going to bargain shop for your family’s SURGERY or MEDICATIONS?!?
Let’s start with the medications. Lots of us cost-conscious folks like to jump on a computer and find an online pharmacy that sells products a little bit cheaper than their local vet. Of course, the rational argument being that “they are the same medication”, right? Not necessarily. There are documented cases, and I’ve personally witnessed many examples, of:
- Black Market deals – Most of the drug manufacturer’s do not sell their products to online pharmacies. What happens here is that unscrupulous individuals purchase the medications at cost, illegally sell them to the online sources for a minimal markup, and they re-sell them to you and pocket the profit.
- Substitute or Counterfeit medications – A consumer submits a prescription from their local vet for a specific product, but is sold something the online source considers to be an equivalent. We even had a client one time bring us a product whose packaging was completely in Chinese characters they couldn’t even read.
- Improper Shipping or Warehousing – Some online pharmacies stockpile and/or ship their products in conditions that drastically affect the efficacy of the products. You may be saving a few bucks on a product that won’t even work!
These are just a few examples of why we urge you to stop using the online sources and support your local economy by purchasing from your local vet that truly cares about your family and their safety. Do you think the online pharmacies care about you, your pet, or anything but your money? Please show your veterinarian that you value them and the care they provide by continuing to support their local small business.
If you are still with me, as I know this has been a long one, I need to get into what really kindled this fire and prompted me to take out my frustrations by hammering away on my poor keyboard. STOP BARGAIN SHOPPING FOR YOUR PET’S SURGERY!!! This is not the area to skimp! By all means, save a few dollars and get the Wal-Mart bed or the Dollar Store collar and leash, but please make every effort you can to make sure your pets are safe and comfortable for any surgical procedure. For goodness sake, it’s SURGERY.
I’m going to paint 2 pictures, and I want you to tell me which one you would want for your family member. Don’t worry, I already know the answer…
Dog A is taken to a location where they perform 40-50 spay/neuter procedures per day at a cost of around $50. The owner is handed a clipboard with some information to read themselves and provide a signature at the bottom. Their furry baby is taken away to a holding area with a multitude of other pets that are there for the day and waiting their turn, regardless of their temperament (aggressive) or medical history (many are unvaccinated or contagious). Dog A is medicated with the same medication as every other patient regardless of their health, sometimes intubated by an assistant (note, NOT the doctor), quickly prepped for surgery, and once knocked out, finally presented to the doctor that is rapidly switching between surgery tables with anesthetized patients to perform the procedures as fast as they can, often without any surgical monitoring. An assistant takes the anesthetized patient off the table, wakes them up as fast as possible, and puts him/her in a cage for the owner to pick up the next day. At pickup, the family receives a copy of some boiler plate after-care instructions and are directed to call their “regular vet” if they have any problems.
Dog B is taken to a hospital where they may perform 2-4 procedures in a day at a ballpark cost of approximately $450. The nervous parents are treated like family and greeted by an assistant that will be with their baby for their entire procedure and they all go into a private room for a surgical admission. The assistant discusses the procedure of the day, personally goes over the admission/consent form, and is a focused audience to field any questions the family may have about the procedure. The doctor comes in to answer any additional questions and let the family know the plan for the day. Once all questions are answered, the family departs and their furry baby is taken to the treatment area of the hospital.
A small blood sample is drawn to make sure the patient is healthy enough for the scheduled procedure and there are no underlying problems, as well as to allow the doctor to select the correct amounts of the appropriate medications for this specific patient. An I.V. catheter is placed in the front leg of the patient that will be used for the induction anesthetic as well as to receive fluids throughout their surgery for blood pressure regulation. The patient receives a cocktail of medications prior to their procedure for preemptive pain relief and sedation.
Once nice and relaxed, they receive a calculated dose of the most appropriate anesthetic induction agent for that patient, which is sometimes the same agent used for many human surgical procedures. They drift off to sleep very peacefully, are intubated by a doctor, and are constantly monitored from this point forward by a team member dedicated to this patient for their entire procedure. This team member is responsible for monitoring and regulating body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, Oxygen levels, Carbon Dioxide levels, respiration rate, fluid administration volume, and the percentage of the inhaled anesthetic the patient is receiving throughout their procedure. The doctor performs the surgery, closes with the appropriate sutures, and is always at arm’s length to help with any problems that may arise.
Once the procedure is completed, the patient is moved to a recovery area with a soft bed, warm blankets, and the same dedicated team member that ensures their safety and a slow, uneventful recovery. Their nails are trimmed, ears are cleaned (and plucked if necessary), and they are monitored until they can physically walk on their own. Once the patient reaches this level of alertness, their family is called by the doctor and given an update on the procedure, a time for discharge is scheduled, and the patient is taken to an individual “condo” with soft blankets where they can rest comfortably after their eventful morning.
When the family arrives for discharge, they are again taken to a private room where they are informed about how the procedure went, how their baby “performed” under anesthesia, and they are taken line by line through a typewritten sheet of discharge instructions that is fully customized for their specific pet. They are also provided pain medication for their baby’s comfort after their procedure. The team and the doctor are there to answer any questions the family may have, and always provides a phone number and email the family may use if there are any questions they may have forgotten to ask, or if there are any complications after surgery.
Approximately 10 days later, the family returns to have any sutures removed and have the surgery site rechecked for any issues. This recheck is free of charge and the patient is given the green light to return to regular activity and play.
No question right? There’s not a single one of you that would choose scenario #1 over #2 for their family. Yes, there is a difference in cost, but like grandpa always said “You get what you pay for.” Both of the scenarios accomplish the same task, but then again a shed in the woods provides the shelter you need, but not the comfort, security, and safety that is provided by your home.